Religious liberty in focus during US Bishops' ad limina

2012-02-14 Vatican Radio

The Bishops of the US states of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin are in Rome this week for their ad limina visits. Religious liberty continues to be a major focus of attention for the Holy Father and the various curial offices the bishops are visiting during their stay.

The Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, Robert Morlino, told Vatican Radio that the bishops themselves are aware of a growing concern among the broader public for the integrity of conscience rights and liberty generally. “Everybody sees that their freedom of conscience is at stake,” said Bishop Morlino, explaining, “it just depends who is up to be curtailed at any given moment for whatever reason.” The Bishop went on to say, “If they can do it to Catholics, they can do it to anybody.”

Discussion in the United States of the controversial HHS mandate requiring Catholic institutions to provide contraceptives and abortifacients at no cost to the insured employee, continues. Bishop Morlino expressed his own concern with the aims of the Obama administration, saying, “There seems to be an approach that seeks to divide the Church, even more than She is already divided,” along liberal and conservative lines. “We should not be this way,” said Bishop Morlino. “All the ‘liberal/conservative’ bit is an import from the political sphere, which really does us nothing but damage.” Bishop Morlino went on to say:

[T]o take advantage of the fact that this has already happened in our culture, this division, and then to start to pit the bishops – as if they were merely one group within the Church – [against] what other groups might think, is clearly a straightforward attempt to divide and to deepen division in the Church, and to weaken the Church – the old saying, “Divide and conquer!”

Asked about how the bishops are planning to engage the public debate, and to help the Catholic faithful engage it, Bishop Morlino spoke of the need to safeguard and strengthen, where necessary, the Catholic identity of Catholic institutions. He said a centrepiece of any effort to revive Catholic identity must involve a recovery of authentic Catholic worship. “We can create all kinds of structures, and make them universal, so that we look more like a unity,” he said, “but the beginning of that has to be, it seems to me, with regard to our own liturgy.” Listen